Perhaps this article should have been called something like:
The Astros sign the occasionally useful Roberto Hernandez
but that would have lured fewer of you to click on the article. It's all about page-views!
The Astros announced the signing of Roberto Hernandez to a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite. If he is promoted to the Majors League club, the Astros would pay him 2.65MM for the year. I assume there is some pro-rating of that salary if he spends the first month or two at Fresno. There is an opt-out date shortly prior to the end of Spring Training, so if Hernandez doesn't pitch well, or if one of the other Spring Training invites gets the inside running on the last rotation spot(s) then he can opt out, and the Astros are on the hook for practically nothing. I guess this gives Brent Strom some time to look at him, at least.
Hernandez has nine seasons under his belt, and has been above average (according to ERA+) in exactly two of them. He has been.... ummm.... slightly below average (ERA+ of 75-100) in a further five seasons (although that is being kind, really, has he has never had an ERA+ in the 90's - all of those are ERA+ ratings between 75 and 89). He has been pretty horrible (ERA+ between 53 and 74) in two seasons. So this isn't exactly Cy Young.
ERA estimators don't really like him, either. By FIP, his best season was waaaaaay back in 2007, when he had an FIP of 3.94. His next-lowest is 4.11, and the next lowest after that is above 4.50. The crappy FIP's are unsurprising because Hernandez has a career 5.6 K/9 rate, so an estimator like FIP is never going to rate him highly. He also walks too many (3.4 K/9), and allows an average 1 HR/9 for his career.
But this is what sinker-ball pitchers look like, I guess. They rely on infield defence, low BABIP rates, and batters not being able to get the ball in the air. When they get hit, they often get hit hard. Which is why it is good that the Astros have very little risk in this transaction - either from the financial or playing-time perspective - but only moderate upside. This isn't going to make anyone's top 10 season transactions list, but not every transaction can, I guess. Hernandez won't propel the Astros to the playoffs, but I have been wrong plenty of times before, and would be happy to be wrong again.
I am sure that the Astros Front Office are keeping careful tabs on Brandon Beachy too, but have already stated that they don't plan to add another starter. All they want - I would think - is a half season of solid work from some random warm-body until Peacock is back and Appel and/or Velasquez is ready for a look. Hernandez could be that warm-body.